Wednesday, December 29th, 2010 at 11:45 pm

The Cooking Chronicles: More Vegetarian Dishes

This year, I’ve made a conscious effort to make more vegetarian dishes. Some are hit or miss (a cheddar apple soup we tried recently was definitely the latter), but the two below did not make us miss meat.

Polenta Pie

I immediately bookmarked Mollie Katzen’s recipe for polenta pie as soon as I saw it on Kelley’s blog. I hadn’t really made polenta any other way than on the stove, eaten while still creamy, so baking polenta to form a crust really intrigued me.

On top of the crust went a layer of cheese, sautéed vegetables, then another layer of cheese. Unfortunately, we only had enough fontina for the first layer, which is something I think impacted the success of the dish somewhat.

Mack ended up enjoying the polenta crust more than I did; the crispy bits were fun to eat, but perhaps a more even ratio of vegetables to polenta would have helped for me.

Polenta Pie

Polenta pie

I would make it again, but I’d have to think about how to jazz it up a little more.

Curried Lentil Soup

If there is an idea to get excited about, this is it (okay, at least for the soup lovers among us). We’ve tried a number of ways to thicken our soups – cornstarch, roux, pureed potatoes – but Molly Wizenberg’s idea of pureed chickpeas in her recipe for curried lentil soup has got to be the most flavourful, nutritious way that we’ve come across so far.

It didn’t thicken the dish as much as I expected it to (we would have needed two cans of chickpeas for that), but it did the trick, and combined with the green lentils that still had a bite, made for a lovely texture.

Curried Lentil Soup

Curried lentil soup

I’ve mentioned that Mack isn’t the biggest fan of soups (he’s hoping it’s just a phase in my cooking), but between the heat from the curry powder and the consistency, even he requested this dish be made again. Thanks Linda for the recommendation!

  • http://sexyclean.wordpress.com virtual.jess

    I love using pureed chickpeas in soup. In fact, sometimes I just make chickpea… soup. It takes approximately 20 minutes and is perfect as a weeknight meal with a tahini kale salad and good bread. Another trick is to add red lentils to whatever soup you are making. They dissolve as the soup simmers, making it wonderfully rich and adding lots of good fiber and nutrition, without the extra step of pureeing chickpeas (my mother used to do this in her spaghetti sauce to beef it up without the expense of ground beef- yes, we were that poor). I’m sure stirring in leftover hummus or other bean dip would have a similar effect. I’ve tried using refried beans for this purpose, but I think they make the soup stodgy instead of creamy- I think pinto beans are just a little too rich. Have you tried pureeing silken tofu with your broth? I’ve used this method in cream soups, and it works well. Of course, nut and seed butters work brilliantly here- The Bulk Barn sells a bulk sunflower and flax seed butter that would be nice in a soup with Mediterranean or Mid-East flavours.
    Before I was vegan I would use the recommendations in my grandmother’s old first-edition Julia Child- stir in an egg yolk and some cream after you take the soup off the heat. Cholesterol never tasted so good!
    http://sexyclean.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/smooth-and-bright-chickpea-soup/

  • Linda A

    I’m so glad you and Mack liked this recipe!
    I also am a big fan of simple red lentil soups.
    My family are all big fans of a simple curried red lentil soup from “The Stop” cookbook available on the Chapters website as-Good Food for All: Seasonal Recipes from a Community Garden. It can be on your table 45 mins after you start preparing the vegetables. The cookbook has many great recipes.
    Let me know if you’d like to try this one and I’ll email it to you. Happy New Year Sharon!

  • http://www.onlyhereforthefood.ca Sharon

    virtual.jess – thanks for all of the tips! I would have never thought to use nut butters, and though I’ve had tofu in soups, I’ve never had it as a thickener. And the egg yolk and cream sounds delicious :).

    Linda – I’ve tried a couple of curried red lentil soups, and while they are okay, none have really blown us away – sure, if you could e-mail it, that would be great! I’m always looking for new recipes, thanks!

  • http://sexyclean.wordpress.com virtual.jess

    Nut butters are thick and fatty, just like dairy, and so play a similar role in cooking :) Try it! Also, check out Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn this week, they are featuring soups of all stripes, and some of the ones covered so far look especially promising- pumpkin tortilla soup? Yes please!
    (They also have a cream of tomato soup that involves cashews as the ‘cream’….)

  • http://cookbookcooks@wordpress.com Kelley

    Oh no. That is too bad that you did not enjoy the polenta dish. I agree the full order of cheese would help and the original recipe did call for mushrooms. I bet they would “meat” it up :)

    I am glad you liked the soup though – lentil soups are always yummy.

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